Georgia voters have grown despite new restrictions on the opportunity

Bipartisan groups in Georgia unite to win voters

Source: Washington Post/Getty

As Voters are preparing for the 2022 Senate runoff, one thing is clear: the people of Georgia won on election night. I’m not talking about the result of a race. I speak of the more than 3.9 million voters who have overcome orchestrated efforts to prevent them from speaking out, casting their vote and keeping democracy alive in our state.

This election was not about one politician or a series of personalities. The stakes were much higher. Georgia lawmakers have spent the last two years developing and passing SB 202 and SB 441, laws that cleaned up voter rolls, made it illegal to give voters water, and severely restricted mail voting (which disproportionately older, disabled and homebound people). with the intention of disenfranchising voters. Their efforts upended our traditional voting practices and created new barriers to intimidate voters. The new laws not only restricted the ways, times, and places of voting, but authorized the Georgia Bureau of Investigations to conduct investigations into alleged voter misconduct based on a hunch or “I told you so,” leaving many vulnerable Voter victims fell victim to possible harassment and disenfranchisement.

Voter suppression is nothing new and has always targeted women, people of color, new Americans, and those who lack financial means or have criminal records. Today’s legislators are simply taking a page from the Jim Crow-era playbooks on staying power. Our forefathers and grandmothers faced poll taxes, literacy tests, and violence to cast their ballots. Today we face a different set of voter-suppression tactics. Nonetheless, we are following in their footsteps to make the promises of democracy a reality and ensure our communities have access to the ballot box.

As a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the fight for a just and inclusive democracy, our mission is to help our state’s most marginalized communities—those who have been impacted by efforts of oppression help to fight back against this kind of bullying at the ballot box. For the past nine months, ProGeorgia has had the privilege of assisting our partners – 49 community organizations working with Georgian voters of all races, religions and beliefs – to do the hard work of democracy.

Armed with two years of organizing in the pandemic era and years of experience on the ground in our diverse communities, ProGeorgia met people where they were. Through 31,000 face-to-face conversations, 10 million text messages and 133,000 phone calls, we registered tens of thousands. We’ve provided more than 3 million Georgians with information and resources to help them overcome the countless obstacles designed to keep them from voting. Through in-person and virtual training, we have provided voters with opportunities to get involved this election season, because our democracy needs participation to thrive.

Whether through voter education campaigns that combat misinformation and disinformation, through traditional and social media and promotional efforts that alert voters to important deadlines for voter registration and important information about election dates and what is happening at their polling stations, or through grassroots education and mobilization efforts In order to get to the elections, our main focus has been to ensure voters are ready to overcome any obstacles that stand between them and the ballot box.

With Election Day behind us, we clearly see the fruits of our labor materializing in the form of increased voter engagement. Low- and medium-tilt voters, who tend to be overlooked by election campaigns (particularly during midterm or down-ballot races), black voters, and other voters of color emerged and showed up at the polls. In the first three weeks of early voting, voters of color in nearly all age groups voted at higher rates than their white neighbors, and overall, Georgia voters broke the early voting record, casting more than 2.5 million ballots. As a state, we have overcome reduced polling stations, new rules, and various challenges. Every one of the four million votes is proof of our shared commitment to democracy.

This is what it looks like to refuse to let Georgia’s history of voter suppression repeat itself. It appears voters have retained their faith in the process, and poll workers and poll officials are defying threats to count every ballot. No matter which candidate wins in the end, when all the votes are counted, democracy has won.

Tamieka Atkins is the eExecutive Director of ProGeorgia, a state non-partisan voter engagement advocacy organization. ProGeorgia serves as the civic engagement table for more than 40 different non-profit organizations to work strategically with new tools and technologies to organize problems and political changes in Georgia.


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